Needing human relationships in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Haruka Ichikawa

Many problems have occurred in modern society in Japan. For example, issues in human relations continue to increase. It is considered that the problems of NEET, hikikomori, and kodokushi are also social problems in Japan. These social problems is called “muen shakai”. This represents one side of Japanese society which single-person household increases, and the relationship between people is becoming weak.

In the movie Tokyo Sonata, muen shakai was drawn heavily in the ordinary nuclear family. By Ryuhei (father) losing his jobs, family relationships begin changing. Someone else of his family start having a secret from each other. And because they no longer speak to each other, family relationships go thinner. In modern society in which relationships with family and the neighbor is very weak, we would have become not to know if we do not speak to each other whether who, when, where, and what we are.

The severity of the present employment was expressed with the scene in which he hunts for a job. He lost one of his ibasho and his social position. It is not necessarily that everyone is able to do they work they want. Like Ryuhei, by losing their jobs suddenly, some people work in non-regular employment. Non-regular employment is unstable and has lower income compared to regular employment. But there are problems with regular employment. For example, karoshi. As a result of being forced to work without holidays and long overtime, in the mental and physical burden, workers succumb to death from sudden cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack. Even when death did not come from overwork, some people are driven to suicide by the stress and pressure. I think in order to prevent suicide, it is necessary for their mental health to be supported by the power of family. It is also considered that support of the Japanese government becomes necessary in economic terms.

When I saw this movie, I wondered not that we have to care about our appearance and views like Ryuhei did, and that should not be put off the idea and feelings of family. The family woke up little by little in the end, and it went toward a good direction in this movie, but some families can lead to divorce once they no longer go well. I think that it needs communication, having common understanding of what is important for them, and making an effort to build relationships each other before the relationship is broken.

The connection between Tokyo Sonata and precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yume Furumura

Tokyo Sonata is a movie which shows a breakdown and a bit of hope in an ordinary family in Japan. There are a lot of messages of this movie, but I’d like to analyze it focusing on “ibasho” and “jiko sekinin” of the ideas in Anne Allison’s book, Precarious Japan.

Allison writes “If only we have hope and respect, we can live. But without a secure means of existence, many today have no place or sense of home at all [ibasho].” In this movie, each member of the family looks for their own “ibasho”. For example, Ryuhei (the father and husband) lost his job, but it was the only ibasho for him. Then, he starts to pursue his new ibasho. The other members of the family also search for it. However, Allison has doubts about Japanese’s having problems of “ibasho”. She says as follows, “instead of finding shelter for their dream making, many feel exiled but not to anywhere else as much as to nowhere at all?” It does not necessarily mean that all Japanese don’t have their house. However, if it is a form-only house, it doesn’t occupy their mind. In fact, the family of the movie has a house, but it is just the house for them. It was not ibasho.

The older son loses “kibo” (hope) because he cannot find a good job and believes that he will never be acknowledged by society in Japan. The son got tired of the structure of Japanese society, kakusa shakai. Therefore, he decides to be a soldier in America for finding a new ibasho and for his family. Ryuhei was strongly against what he tried to do. However, the son went to America with “jiko sekinin” (self-responsibility). According to Allison, “Couched in a rhetoric of ‘quality of life’ and ‘living independently,’ this turn to individual responsibility (jiko sekinin) and return to family or household is the signature of government attempts to privatize care and cut back on state spending.” Even if the son dies in America, the government of Japan wouldn’t do anything, because it is his (the son’s) jiko sekinin. In fact, Megumi tried to confirm her son’s safety, but she couldn’t do even that. If I were in the son’s shoes, I would probably think that whatever the outcome, it is better to go to America than live in disgrace in Japan.

I was surprised at the close connection between the movie and what Allison’s book says, because it is a Japanese who made the movie, and it is a foreigner who wrote the book. Japan has been thought as a rich country by people in other countries. However, a lot of Japanese feel that they are not happy now, and the perspective of the future of Japan may start changing. I want Japan to be the society that all of the people can have hope, and I expect the hopeful story will be made next.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Social relations with Robi and Tamagotchi

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marie Fudaba

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison mentioned “prosthetic sociality”. Prosthetic sociality means electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect. It is percolating in the social gap left by the weakening of human ties in the family, workplace, and community in Japan today. In Japanese society, the attenuation of human relations becomes a serious problem and the number of people who enter prosthetic sociality seems to be increasing.

The author mentioned ‘Tamagotchi’ as typical example of it. Tamagotchi is the virtual pet that came “alive” by hatching, an egg on the electronic screen that grew to adulthood by feeding, playing and tending to do it like a “real pet”. It is popular for people who feel lonely without human connection because it evokes an intimate attachment in humans and it has healing power. The author called such an electric good that offers an intimacy premised on care and built into technology “techno-intimacy”. She is optimistic about it because there is a constant sense of connection and an expectation of instant communication, it effects good impact people who have the weakening of humanities.

I agree with the author’s opinion that the number of people who rely on prosthetic society is increasing because they feel attenuation of human relations, and her optimism for it. Actually, an annual lifestyle white paper written by the Japanese Cabinet office shows a dilution of human relationships in the family, community, and at work. Particularly in the family, people don’t have time to spend with each other. Under modern capitalism, the father and mother are working for long hours every day, they spend no time with their family and it makes their children lonely. Moreover, many children often tend to go to cram school or individual enrichment courses so they can work in a good company in the future. They also spend a lot of time on the internet and playing electronic games at home. Ties between children and parents all get weak, and they must think they don’t have ibasho and feel lonely. In work, Allison mentioned there are many people who don’t get on with the people at work, and they seems to feel a lack of communication.

In this situation, techno-intimacy can help them from a lack of human connection. For example, there are ‘Robi,’ which is a robot that can communicate like a human because it is a therapeutic robot. Moreover, Japanese engineers are putting a lot of work into development to establish a ‘heart-to-heart relationship’ to become closer, like with friends, between people and robots. If that development can be implemented, it might decrease the number of solitary persons or the number of solitary deaths from now on. Therefore, I agree with Anne Allison’s opinion and am anticipating its future development.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Japanese Cabinet office HP, annual lifestyle white paper.


Because they are not here “just for the time being”: Education for immigrant children

Diversity the norm in one German classroom (from

by Kyungyeon Chung

Education is an important block for state and citizen-building. Especially in public schools, what is taught in classrooms reflects what is valued in society, and vice versa. Schools are the first and foremost tool governments will reach out to, when in need of public campaign. Many times, this reflection can regard more overarching values such as democracy; sometimes it can be more particular such as desire for unification in South Korea, or “collective communalism” in Japan (Moorehead 2013). In such cases whereby national education system serves to shape citizens, the incoming flow of immigrant children can pose a big challenge to the state- and the society’s perception of itself.

In the article “Separate and Unequal” by Robert Moorehead, remedial language lessons for immigrant children in Japanese public schools are argued to be an ethnic project. Having come back to the ‘homeland’ from Latin America, immigrant children with Japanese heritage required JSL lessons that were supposed to help them reach an equal footing with native-born students. However, in reality, keeping immigrant children in a separate classroom with little structured support, their potential and possibilities continue to be restricted, while native-born students proceed ahead. The author describes how this system gravely fails the students, further separating them along racial lines, and reflects “particular conceptualizations of the children’s’ future lives as members of Japanese society” (Moorehead 2013). Such particular conceptualization stems, at least partially, from Japan’s societal perception of it as an ethnically and historically homogeneous country that values harmony, uniformity, and collectivism.

This sort of challenge is not only experienced by Japan, though. Germany has also undergone several changes to address similar problems. In the article “From homogeneity to diversity in German education”, Anne Sliwka, a professor at Heidelberg University of Education in Germany, describes the issue in detail.

Since the large influx of immigrants in the 1960s, the German government became increasingly aware that the immigrants of diverse backgrounds were not there temporarily but would settle (Sliwka, 2010). At the time, the fundamental paradigm behind German education is the assumption that the homogeneity of learners in a group best facilitates their individual learning (Sliwka, 2010). Based on this assumption, Germany has long maintained a system divided into four or five general categories in which children were sorted into the “right” type of school for them (UK-German Connection, n.d.). However diverse educational needs of immigrant children came to highlight the shortcomings of this generalized system and unrealistic expectation of homogeneity.

Following the recognition of heterogeneous student population, there have been several shifts in the field: more policies are programed to support individualized lessons; data are collected to account for cultural, socio-economic and linguistic differences; growing research on equity in classrooms (Sliwka, 2010). As time passes, this slow yet growing shift in the education paradigm in Germany from the focus on ‘average’ to acceptance of diversity would further encourage the society-wide recognition and appreciation as well. Sliwka writes “changing the way the German educational system views diversity also entails cultural change in the society at large” (2010).

Both cases of Japan and Germany illustrate how education needs of immigrant children can encourage dialogues in the nations to think twice and hard about their perception of itself as a homogeneous nation. However the immigrant population is here to settle, live, and grow. The process will no doubt take a long time and require more than a change in curriculum or educational agenda. However, schools can be a very good starting point. After all, appropriate teaching from early age can lay sound foundations for healthy dialogues in society for a long time to come.


Moorehead, Robert. 2013. “Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3.

Sliwka, A. “From homogeneity to diversity in German education.” Educating teachers for diversity meeting the challenge. Paris: OECD, 2010. 205-217.

UK-German Connection. “The school system in Germany.” UK-German Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

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Can you live alone?

by Zhang Shiwen

Japanese animation has become one of the most influential cultural media in the world. It not only exports the interesting stories, but also expresses the Japanese values to the world. One of the phrases which appears in most animations moved me and maybe many others a lot, what I think is the core value of Japanese culture is that “the human being cannot live alone”. Due to that, no matter what type of the animation is, Japanese value always tells us the importance of being connected with others. However, to think of the situation that Anne Allison wrote in Precarious Japan, the real Japan society has been losing this core value of connection. Some of them “have been abandoned or estranged from their families”, who will be discussed following are called “denizens” or “refugees” in her book (Allison 2013:59).

It is known that “denizenship” and “refugeeism” mostly describe the migrants and foreigners, but in Japan, people “who get stranded inside their own country with access to a secure job, stable home, or normal life”, and “without a place or space where one feels comfortable and “at home”” are also called “refugees” (Allison 2013:47). However, under the constitution of Japan, all citizens have the right to enjoy the basic life, which means living healthily and getting basic insurance. While seeing the current situation in Japan, many people work to earn money which even cannot afford the housing, enough food; even if the low payment and bad health condition, the government refused to pay the insurance. Moreover, some people work but “felt superfluous: unvalued in the work” and “voided of worth or recognition as a human being” (Allison 2013:64). They felt it a hardship of living because of lacking of human relationships or no belonging.

However, as what most animations show and the reality that people need “social recognition, human belonging”, and people “relay on others for self-confirmation”(Allison 2013:67), some of those who lose the connection with the society chose to kill others to prove his own existence, such as “Akibaken musabetsu terojiken”; some of them transferred their worries of insecurity of life to dissatisfied and then “join right wing association for the national belonging” (Allison 2013:63). In Japan, “net right wing” and “hate speech” are raised, but the truth is that it is hard to master the true information. Due to that, I think that if it is difficult to say the denizenship and refugeeism lead those people seek belonging to these groups, though some groups are good.

Therefore, in my opinion, denizenship and refugeeism will not lead people to seek belonging elsewhere, although it looks like so. Firstly, I do not know how people even cannot feed on themselves have the flexibility to join some groups, of course, if entering these groups can give them some benefits. That is the economic factor which makes those denizens join the groups. Secondly, I do not deny that it is very important to be recognized and belong, but I think that like people born alone and die alone, why they cannot live alone? If join to some groups or being recognized by the society is just self‐satisfaction? Some people, like Hitler or the leaders of right wings, use people’s desire of being recognized to do some bad things. Then, in these case, do they really take back their respect of human being?

In conclusion, I think that government should mainly take the responsibility to make sure the security of them, and take their respect back. What it means is that to join some groups is not enough and easy to be paranoid, the best way is to make them get back to the society.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


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The pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan spea...

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ami Yamada

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison regards the movement that forced people to have more self-responsibility (“jiko sekinin”) as a negative on the whole. After the bursting of bubble, the Japanese government has reformed some traditional Japanese systems and shifted more responsibility to the individual rapidly. The movement was attributed to spread neo-liberalism in Japan. The government adopted the idea and promoted some policies, for example, a massive deregulation and restructuring platform, which were based on market fundamentalism and capitalism.

Moreover, under such a situation, the Prime Minister Koizumi pushed on “structural reform without sanctuaries”, including system of health care. Reforms based on neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism produced bipolarization, that is, rich and poor. It is hard for people who fell into poor spiral once to get out of the loop of poor, and now, there are many poor people who are left by even social safety nets and cannot make a basic life. Allison mentions that they float at work and drift in life as NEET, net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on. Allison also says that these situations do not match the right which is guaranteed by the article 25 of Japanese constitution; all people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.

As I received Aliison’s thought, then I myself think about “jiko sekinin”. First, I state pros of it. I think that we can choose almost all things by ourselves like in Japanese society, although free choices always have responsibility. It depends on yourself whether go to school, work, get marriage, have a child, or not. In addition, people who make effort or have talent can succeed and become a winner in neo-liberal society. The more effort you make, the much salary you can get. It can motivate you and may tell you how important you try to do your best.

Next, I think about cons of “jiko sekinin”. People were given the right of free choices and had to bear the responsibility by themselves at the same time. However, I think that the situation, “free”, varies from person to person. I mean, it is not good to force people to hold yourself responsible for everything (especially bad, negative thing), although people can live in only place where has limited by something already.

To be honest, I cannot say to be for or against the movement “jiko sekinin” sweepingly. However, I believe strongly that it is nonsense to label someone who is like net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on as a just lazy without considering their background and social circumstance. Not only government also we should support these people properly.

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Refugeeism, social rights and the Japanese government

Anonymous student post

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and t...

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Government of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Anne Allison (2013), Japan is facing an era of ordinary refugeeism, in which ordinary people like us could be a homeless with no job and no place to return to. Many of these people Anne Alison calls “the drifting poor” are flexible or irregular workers, including temporary workers or day laborers having no job security, often with no compensation or health insurance and earning about 7000yen for a day on average. Some of these workers become net café refugees, spending nights at an internet café or hamburger shops since they cannot afford an apartment. Among those most precarious workers, quite many numbers are the young generations in their age of twenties. This new face of poverty in Japanese society are ordinary youth we can find anywhere in Japan once expected to be a re-productivity of Japanese society and shoulder it’s economy of the next generation (Allison, 2013).

It seems clear that Japan’s progressively reproductive futurism is collapsing into precarious society with no hope for the future, as Anne Allison points out in her book. Recently, only a few percent of world population is monopolizing the wealth and the economic gap is widening and the number of precarious people are considered denizens without sustainable jobs, full citizenship or home even inside their home country is increasing. Japan is not the exception but at the front of this trend.

This situation of denizens contradicts the Japanese constitution. According to article 25 which stipulates the right to life and the state’s social mission, all citizens are entitled to have healthy and culturally basic existence (Tanaka, 2014). It could also be a violation of social rights in International Covenants on Human Rights that Japan has been ratifying (Tanaka, 2014). It is obvious that being homeless and not able to lay down when sleeping, eating cup noodles only and continuously threatened by job insecurity is not a healthy and culturally basic existence and Japanese government has a responsibility by not fulfilling this right.

The Japanese Government protected big companies in priority and introduced the system of results-based employment and individual responsibility after facing the bursting of the bubble economy and the following economic decline. However, they did not proclaim any effective policy on social security to protect people who fell out of the new working system nor develop a social welfare system. Currently, the Abe administration is practicing the policy of Abenomics, the economic and monetary policies of prime minister Abe. I suspect that this economic measure is not effective by accelerating the social gap and distortion of neoliberalism.

Statistics are showing that although companies’ profits had increased with Abenomics, capital investment has not increased; therefore the policy is failing to distribute wealth for the employees (Suzuki, n.d.). Furthermore, the administration is spending so much time and effort on the argument of revision of article 9. Rather, I think the government should provide countermeasures on employment and social welfare for this critical situation affecting too many irregular workers. However, the Abe administration has reduced the budget for public assistance since August 2013 (Seikatsuhogohi, 2013).

If the future of our country is the youth who are irregular workers, with no home, no hope or plan for the future, Japan will blow up itself. In order to break through this situation, it is very important to have NPOs or NGOs to help those precarious people. However, I believe this is more the government’s responsibility to control and correct these issues. I think one of the biggest problems is that the Japanese people have little sense of entitlement and depend on the bureaucracy. We citizens too have a responsibility by light polls at elections to overlook the hardship. I think we should not just accept unfair situations or deceived by government’s little temporary distribution of economic profit trying to divert citizen’s dissatisfaction. We Japanese citizens should actively request the government to fundamentally improve the social welfare system.


Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University press.

Tanaka, M. (2014). Basic documents of International Law. Toshindo: Japan.

Suzuki, M.(n.d.). Setsubitoushi karamita keikijunkan [capital investment and economic rocovery]. Retrieved from

Seikatsuhogohi 8 gatubunkara gengakue [public assistance budget will be reduced from this August] (May 16, 2013). Retrieved from Asashi Digital:


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Individual responsibility in Japan

by Natsuki Nakasone

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison says that individual responsibility (jikosekinin) is one of reasons that make hikikomori. We often see that people who reject the decision of independence become hikikomori. After the bursting of the bubble, the government started to promote the politics of neoliberalism like the easing of restraints. And then, at the time of the Koizumi administration, the government eased restrictions too much, because it included very important things like health-care. As a result of it, people came to have to be responsible for their own lives. The exceeding easing of regulations brought precariousness of lives.

Actually, I agree with this opinion. It seems that individual responsibility enables people in Japan to make their own decisions and to choose things that they want to do. However, it can cause several problems which exist in this precarious Japan.

Now, I am a college student, so I am often told that I should have responsibility for my decisions and actions. It is essential in some degree to become independent from my parents. However, I sometimes feel anxiety and fear. For example, for college students, earning credits is very important thing, so most of them try to work hard to get them. Nevertheless, some of them might be not able to earn enough credits because of various reasons, such as surrounding circumstances. At that time, they can be said that it is your fault. There is an enough possibility that the same thing occur in work place. These are obviously not fair. Jikosekinin in Japan lacks consideration for those who are in a hard situation. That is why jikosekinin makes hikikomori.

And also if people put the all decisions into individual’s hand as jikosekinin, someday people will conflict with others because of the differences of sense of value. Therefore, the drawing a line is difficult.

I think that Japanese put off solving many social problems by connecting individual responsibility, because of lack of recognizing those problems as familiar problems. In Japan, most of people can live ordinary lives, so they do not or cannot think about social problems seriously. Even though many people face the difficulties, Japanese think that I am an exception.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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What is “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin)

Anonymous student post

I’d like to talk about the pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”.

In the Koizumi administration, privatizing was performed under the idea of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin). However, he hardly invested in social programs including welfare. About this, Anne Allison says that she agree with Yuasa’s view that “the government even more implicit” (p.52) to the depression such as the decline of wage brought by the burst of the bubble and the shift in labor patterns. She regards this movement as negative one.

First of all, what is individual responsibility? I was said by my father. “Can you have individual responsibility?” I answered. “Yes, I have responsibility for my actions without fail.” Then, my father said “People who understand what the responsibility is rarely say the word of responsibility” Hearing this, I was noticed that individual responsibility is something heavier than I thought, and I don’t know how far I bear the responsibility. From then, I have been thinking what individual responsibility is. However I don’t find the answer yet. Therefore I’d like to think this question through this.

Firstly, what people think and act in the individual responsibility make them to think about their action carefully. Therefore, people who proceed to the some bad situation such as having no job may decrease. I think it is the pros of the individual responsibility.

However, I suspect that privatizing under the banner of individual responsibility is the escape of responsibility for government. Some companies go out of business nothing is granted from the government. Also, I think helping each other decreases and kindness is lacking by reason of their self-responsibility. If the self-responsibility society continues, the society will be a selfish one, thinking of only oneself. For example, if you are abducted in a foreign country, some governor or some people will regard it as self-responsibility. They will criticize that you understood that the area was dangerous and went there. Individual responsibility influences to at least other people or around your environment. If those are all responsibility of action caused by me, I feel the responsibility is grave. Having been abducted. Being homeless because of various home environment. If becoming such result is all the responsibility of themselves, Japanese society will be horribly cold society.

In conclusion, it is important for each person to have individual responsibility. However, I think current Japanese society is the abandonment society named self-responsibility. People criticizing by reason of self-responsibility should think deeply of vulnerable groups in society.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Living in Japan on minimum wage

Masatoshi Yamamoto

According to Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan, we can see that Japan is very precarious now. Japan has a lot of serious social problems such as kakusa shakai, muen shakai, ikizurasa and so on, and there are a lot of people who can’t have hope for their future because of such problems. The precariat and the working poor are kinds of these people. Precariat means irregular workers, and working poor is people who can’t get enough wages, although they are working hard. Why are there so many precarious people in Japan? Why is Japan so precarious? I am worried about my future because I read this book and knew many serious facts in recent Japan.

In recent Japan, the number of net café dwellers is increasing. Many of them are irregular workers or jobless people, and the working poor are a kind of irregular workers. The working poor work as hard as regular workers every day, but they get wages less than those of regular workers. Moreover, a day labor earns on average 6000 to 8000 yen for one day, and it is difficult to live in Japan. Many people live in net cafés, though they are working. The reason is because the minimum age is very low in Japan. They can’t get enough wages to live on.

I can’t have clear image in my future yet, and I don’t know what kind of job I want to get. However, I want to work in a company and be a regular worker to get a stable salary to live. Nowadays, it is difficult for youths to find a job, and many of them become irregular workers. Therefore, maybe I will become an irregular worker if I can’t get my ideal job in my job search. If I become an irregular worker and earn wage that is close to minimum wage, I will hold a demonstration against the government or local community. I think that there are a lot of people who have same idea, so we should argue that the minimum wage is too low to live. The system of minimum wage will not change if we do something.

Our parents pay a lot of taxes, and I think that the government has some extra money because of the large amount of taxes. If it is true, I want government to provide funds to each local community. I wonder why the minimum wages are different among local communities. I hope these issues about minimum wage will be debated in Japanese society more than ever.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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